Pranayama Or Breathing Exercise

Pranayam is a word derived from Sanskrit where "prana" means life force and "yama" means control. Pranayama yoga, also known as breathing yoga, is founded on the beliefs of controlling ones' breath and is almost always a part of yoga. Pranayama play a central part where along with asanas/postures it helps you to get in tune with your bodies.

How Does Pranayama Yoga or Breathing Exercise Benefit Us?

Breathing is a part of life and is one of the most important body functions. There are Five Principles of Yoga of which one is Pranayama Yoga, which is a Breathing Exercise. It helps in promoting correct breathing. By breathing properly in a correct manner, the oxygen supply to the blood and brain is increased and this helps in controlling the "Prana" or vital life. Pranayama Yoga done in combination with asanas brings about purification and self-discipline of both mind and body in the highest manner.

There are eight limbs in Ashtanga Yoga where Pranayama is the fourth 'limb.' Many yoga gurus recommend including pranayama with yoga practice along with other limbs such as Niyama, Yama and Asana.

Benefits of Pranayama Yoga or Breathing Exercise

The way we breathe and the function of breathing itself is extremely important in how our body reacts to difficulties. In today's hectic life with air pollution and other breathing problems, we tend to breathe shallowly and this limits the natural functioning of our lungs. If we adopt the correct technique of breathing, then the circulation and absorption of oxygen in the body increases and the body is better able to get rid of toxins.

Pranayama yoga or Breathing Exercise also has many psychological benefits. According to a modern research, it has been reported that pranayama yoga or breathing exercise is beneficial in treating a variety of stress-related disorders. Pranayama yoga benefits or breathing exercise benefits include:

  • One of the benefits of Pranayama Yoga or Breathing Exercise is that it improves autonomic functions.
  • Pranayama Yoga or Breathing Exercise, when done regularly, can be beneficial in alleviating asthma symptoms.
  • Reduces oxidative stress symptoms.
  • Improves your perception.
  • Increases mental strength.
  • Gives you a strong will-power.
  • Pranayama Yoga or Breathing Exercise increases your capability of having a sound judgment.
  • Helps in living a long and healthy life.

What Are The Different Stages Of Pranayama Yoga Or Breathing Yoga?

Pranayam yoga or breathing yoga has four stages:

  1. Arambha: In this stage, the user develops an interest to control his/her breath.
  2. Ghata: This an advanced stage where your inner processes help you in controlling your breath.
  3. Parichay: In this stage, you can feel a sense of enlightenment.
  4. The fourth stage helps you in unraveling your potential for attaining a higher mental level. This fourth stage is open to analysis and may or may not be included in yoga practice by some practitioners.

Given Below Are Six Different Styles of Pranayama Yoga or Breathing Exercise

  1. Bhastrika Pranayama Also Known As "Bellows Breath"

    Bhastrika Pranayama Technique or Bellows Breath Technique Are As Follows:

    • Inhale deeply through your nose and you will feel your diaphragm going down, expansion of lungs and your abdomen projecting out.
    • Exhale rapidly through nostrils and feel your collar bones coming down, deflating of your chest and shrinking of your abdomen. You should exhale faster than you inhale.
    • Repeat this for a few minutes.
    • Increase the pace of your breathing as you practice more and more. Always start slow to prevent hyperventilation and increase the speed gradually.
  2. Kapalbhati, Also Known As "Shining Forehead Breath"

    Kapalbhati Technique or Shining Forehead Breath Technique Are As Follows:

    • Very slowly, breathe in through your nostrils till your lungs have expanded completely.
    • You can feel your diaphragm moving down, permitting the expansion of the lungs and the abdomen forced outward.
    • Exhale forcefully through both the nostrils with complete emphasis on your exhaling breath along with pulling in of the muscles of your stomach, in order to expel the air.
    • The time taken for exhaling should be lesser than inhaling.
    • Repeat these breaths for around 10 to 12 mins.
    • You can rest for a minute in between.
  3. Anulom Vilom, Also Known As "Alternate Nostril Breath"

    Steps To Do Anulom Vilom Technique or Alternate Nostril Breath Technique Are As Follows:

    • Keep your eyes closed and concentrate on the process of breathing.
    • Using your right thumb close your right nostril.
    • Next, breathe in deeply and slowly through your left nostril till your lungs fill with air.
    • You can feel your diaphragm moving down and abdomen projecting out. You can also feel chest expansion along with rising of the collar bones.
    • Now take off the thumb from the right nostril and continue to place the right hand adjacent to the nose and lungs filled with air.
    • Next, using your middle and ring finger, block your left nostril. You can use your other hand if you wish to.
    • Slowly breathe out or exhale through your right nostril. You can feel your collar bones coming down, deflating of the chest and shrinking of the abdomen.
    • After complete exhaling, continue keeping the left nostril blocked.
    • Inhale or breathe in through your right nostril till you lungs are filled with air.
    • Next, close your nostril on the right and free your left nostril.
    • Slowly exhale through the nostril on the left. This completes a single session of Anulom Vilom Pranayam.
    • Continue doing this for 13 minutes. You can rest for a minute in between if you wish.
  4. Bahya Pranayam, Also Known As "External Breath"

    Bahya Pranayam Technique or External Breath Technique Are As Follows:

    • Deeply breathe in through your nostrils.
    • Next, forcefully exhale using your diaphragm and stomach for expelling the air. "Forced" exhalation is the way you contract your abdominal muscles to expel or push out the air from your body. However, it should not cause you any discomfort whatsoever.
    • Bring your chin towards your chest and pull in your abdomen such that there is a concavity felt/seen below the ribcage.
    • Keep this position along with your breath till you start feeling uncomfortable.
    • Next, bring your chin up and slowly inhale allowing your lungs to expand with air.
    • Repeat this 5 times.
  5. Bhramari Pranayam Also Known As "Bee Breath"

    Bhramari Pranayam Technique or Bee Breath Technique Are As Follows:

    • Shut your eyes and concentrate on the breathing process.
    • Position your thumbs inside your ears and the index fingers directly above the eyebrows. Place the rest of the fingers on the sides of your nose with the pinky fingers adjacent to the nostrils.
    • Inhale deeply through your nose. With your pinky fingers, partially close your nostrils all the while keeping your lungs occupied with air.
    • Exhale through your nose along with a humming sound which should commence from your throat.
    • Repeat this three to five times.
  6. Udgeeth Pranayam, Also Known As "Chanting Breath"

    Udgeeth Pranayam Technique or Chanting Breath Technique Are As Follows:

    • Inhale deeply through your nose.
    • Next, very slowly exhale while chanting "Om." The "O" should be long with the "M" kept short.
    • Repeat this three to five times.

Helpful Tips for Doing Pranayama Yoga or Breathing Exercise

  • It is better to practice pranayama yoga or breating exercise in the morning.
  • Don't draw in your abdomen very tightly. While doing pranayama, try to keep the muscles of your stomach relaxed, as if they are held too tightly, then oxygen cannot be inhaled deeply into the lungs.
  • Stop any of the pranayama exercises if you are feeling uncomfortable or light-headed.
  • Take breaks as and when needed while doing pranayam yoga or any of its style.
  • If you are suffering from any health problems, such as hypertension, hernia, heart problem etc., then make sure to consult your physician and obtain consent before starting pranayama yoga or breathing exercise.
  • Make sure you don't suffer from any nose congestion, as breathing through your nose/nostrils is a vital part in pranayama yoga.
  • Always sit in a relaxed and comfortable position and keep your spine straight. The traditional Lotus Position can be used or you can simply sit on a stool or chair.
  • If you are doing pranayama yoga or breathing exercise during the evening time, then make sure your stomach is empty. There should be a gap of some hours between your last meal and Pranayama.

Safety Advice Before You Start Practicing Pranayam

  • Expecting mothers should obtain their doctor's consent before starting pranayama yoga.
  • If you have fever or are suffering from any medical condition, then you have to consult with your doctor before starting Pranayama yoga.
  • Individuals having abdominal surgery, wounds, hernias, appendicitis, peritonitis, a prolapsed uterus or rectum, or women who have given birth recently should not do Kapalbhati Pranayam.
  • Children aged more than 5 years should do Bhastrika Pranayam for not more than 2 minutes; and Anulom Vilom and Kapalbhati Pranayam should not exceed 5 minutes.

Written, Edited or Reviewed By:


Last Modified On: May 10, 2016

Pain Assist Inc.

Pramod Kerkar
  Note: Information provided is not a substitute for physician, hospital or any form of medical care. Examination and Investigation is necessary for correct diagnosis.

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